Who are you, what is your background?Lewis, 29. I was born in Normandy, north of France, but grew up between the south of France and New York City.
When I was fourteen, I started to develop my own style based on optical art and geometry that I keep evolving now. At the age of seventeen, I did a summer program at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), it re-assured my choice to study art. When I got back to Europe, I moved to Switzerland to study a graphic design bachelor at l’École Cantonale d’Art de Lausanne (ÉCAL). Collectively, I studied graphic design for seven years, but I never pictured myself as a graphic designer. I just wanted to learn the tools so I could use them in my own artworks as well as in tattooing today. I had to learn a lot from computers to be able to create more complex patterns and geometric shapes than I could do by hand.
After my studies, I decided to stay in Switzerland a little longer and I moved next to Bern where I worked for two years.
I am now located in Paris, where I opened my private tattoo studio called « Black Symmetry ».
I learned to tattoo mostly by getting heavily tattooed myself and spending a lot of time in tattoo studios. I started to do small tattoos on friends while still studying about six years ago, but I properly started tattooing around four years from now after finishing my bachelor.
How and when did you decide to identify your style with geometry?
Ever since I can remember, I have always been interested in creating things and drawing. I have never been good with observational drawing, so I started at a young age to create geometric shapes and patterns on grid paper. When it comes to tattooing, the choice of doing Dotwork came naturally. I already knew I wanted to work with complex geometric shapes and patterns, I simply picked the technique that would allow me do it onto skin. When it comes to geometry, dots generally age better, and I like the texture the most.
I must have been around 10 years old when I was first confronted to the work of Victor Vasarely. My love and curiosity for geometric/optical art started that day and never stopped growing. I then discovered the work of Sol Lewitt, Julio Le Parc, Francisco Sobrino, Francis Celentano, Bridget Riley, Philippe Decrauzat, among others… I have always been drawn to simple yet strong geometric shapes.
Who were your main influences?
What inspires you generally?
I would say that I mostly get inspired by modern/contemporary art as well as modern/contemporary architecture, but I believe that inspiration is everywhere, and that it’s all about paying attention to details. Weather I find myself in a natural or in an urban landscape, I will find interesting shapes, composition or textures that will inspire me.
What do you look for in a shop?Calm and good music. I’ve always worked by myself in a private studio. I find it much more quiet and intimate and it helps me concentrate. It also enhances the relationship and experience I want to have with my customers.
I mostly have geometric work. I started getting heavily tattooed by Matt Black at « Divine Canvas » in London about 6 years ago. He ended up tattooing my full frontal, both my arms, armpits and ribs. We spent a lot of time together and became very good friends. Even though it was not a proper apprenticeship, I like to call him my mentor. He’s very passionate about what he is doing and I learned a lot getting tattooed by him and watching him work. Matt Black recently moved to New York and is now working at « New York Adorned ». Tomas Tomas recently finished my legs at « Seven Doors Tattoo » in London. Finally, my back is currently being reworked by Thomas Hooper from « Rock of Ages » in Austin. I also have several tattoos from Duncan X that I got over the last few years while spending time at the iconic « Into you » in London.
What kind of tattoos have you chosen for your own body?
I am very grateful to be wearing the work of such pioneering artists, and to have been able to get tattooed in all of these amazing shops.
I have always been working with geometry, but I am learning from every tattoo I do, therefore I believe that my style as well as the quality of my work evolve constantly.
Have you witnessed developments in your style, or has it always been geometric?
The aesthetic itself has changed a bit, my work is a little bolder and darker than it was at the beginning. I guess the main development is the scale of the pieces I do now compared to when I started.
I ask my clients to come at 10:30 the day of the first appointment, so we have time to discuss the design/project in the morning and start tattooing in the afternoon.
When a client comes to you, how do you start to develop your ideas? Do you start with an illustration, or do a study of the body, or use the computer?
The first thing we do is to seat down and talk for a while. Getting to know them is very important to me, and helps me create a piece that will suit them perfectly.
Then I start to show them several pictures of previous works I did. I ask them what are the parts they prefer so I understand what they are looking for. After that, we go through my designs/patterns on the computer. I have hundreds of them so this usually take some time. Once we selected the ones that fit the best, we measure the body part we are going to work on, and scale the designs/patterns for them to fit perfectly before printing them and stenciling them.
For larger works like bodysuits, I take pictures of the body and create a full visualization of the final outcome on the computer so they can get a better idea of what the result will look like.
I mix both technique for every tattoo I do.
Do you draw freehand, or use stencils?
Stenciling my designs onto the skin is a major part of my work, and probably the most challenging. Trying to make a flat piece of paper follow the shapes of a curved, moving canvas can be tricky sometimes.
I measure each body part and then adjust and morph my designs on the computer for them to fit perfectly to it. I really enjoy spending as much time as needed to make everything perfect and symmetrical. I always try to push myself further, find new ways and techniques to make my stencils bigger, better and faster; but it has its limits and the use of freehand is always necessary.
I am extremely fascinated by the idea of covering the body with one single evolving design made by a single artist. I have currently four full bodysuit in progress, and two booked that should be completed this year. I am focusing as much as possible on these kind of project as what interest me the most is to use the body as a canvas and work on its entire surface. I like to make each part connect to the other and play with the distortion and movement of the body.
What interest your the most in tattooing?
Yes, I think so. Depending on the person I am working on, and their body type, I adapt my designs. I usually prefer to use more delicate patterns with softer shading when working on women, and I like to use stronger, darker patterns and designs on men. It also depends on the person’s personality, I’ve done some very intricate work on guys and vice versa. I just try to always adapt my work in order to fit the person perfectly.
Are your tattoos unisex?
I accept between 15 to 20 customers a year depending on the projects.
How many clients do you usually have?
I mostly work with foreigners, to reduce the traveling costs and to progress quickly, we usually work by doing four consecutive days, so I mostly book one customer per week.
I work on large scale projects that take several sessions to complete, therefore, most of the projects I am working on require my customers to travel several time during a year to Paris. This explains why I can not accept many people.
I also like to work on projects that we can complete over one visit, in 3 to 4 consecutive days, we can do a full back or front for example.
Depending on the complexity of the design and the size of the person, a full bodysuit can be completed in about 6 visits of 4 consecutive days.
I am extremely grateful to have the chance to work with such incredible people that are willing to trust me with their bodies.
Do you want to add something to close this interview?
When going through the process of large coverage, we can really see the person change and evolve over the sessions, not only physically, but also mentally. The gain of self esteem and confidence is a great thing to witness and I take great pride in helping people feel better about themselves. Overall, the human interaction really makes the creative process very unique and interesting.
I would like to thank each and everyone of my past and future customers for their trust and for giving me the opportunity to express myself in order to create breathing/moving artworks.